Heckling and protesting at political events has been going on since time immemorial. The protesters who have been dogging Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau’s campaign events are demonstrating anger and belligerence at a level we are not accustomed to seeing, however.
The number of protesters has been growing, as has been the ire they are expressing. We would be well served to take notice and try to understand what has been driving these protests. We can’t simply dismiss the protesters as extremists and kooks to be ignored. In fact, it may be dangerous to do so.
While I respect and understand the importance of the right to protest our politicians, I can’t say that I am a fan of heckling and disrupting events. I don’t like it when guest speakers are drowned out by leftist protesters at university events, and I don’t like seeing Trudeau being forced to cancel campaign events due to protests. That kind of protesting rarely wins sympathy for a cause, and most rational people understand that, so why do people do it? For the most part, the protesters feel cornered and out of options to push back against policies that they feel will harm them.
It’s tough, but we have to try to put ourselves in the shoes of protesters in order to understand why they seem so enraged and hysterical.
Think of extreme climate activists for example. Those folks truly believe that the population of the entire planet may be on the brink of extinction due to emissions. They think that they are doing nothing less than saving themselves and the world with their protests and that there isn’t time to try to make change through democratic means. If a person truly believes that their children will be fated to a fiery horrific death by climate change, they are not going to limit themselves to quiet, rational discourse. They are going to scream about the threat at the top of their lungs, and they do.
Most of the protesters who have been disrupting Trudeau’s events are anti-vaccination activists who oppose vaccination mandates. Again, try to put yourself in their shoes. These are people who genuinely feel that vaccines will cause them immediate or long-term harm. They feel hounded, harassed, and cornered as their ability to travel, work or keep their children in school may be taken away if they don’t submit to vaccination. They may feel that their choices are: a) to have a toxic injection or, b) to become unemployed and essentially locked into their home. Whether one shares that view on vaccinations or not, can you imagine the pressure and stress people with that mindset are feeling right now?
I don’t want to excuse or encourage more protests laden with angry people screaming expletives at Trudeau. I would just like to see people, particularly those in the media, trying to offer a little understanding of what has led to these protests.
When Black Lives Matter protesters get violent and shout loud obscenities at demonstrations, the media fall all over themselves to explain why these protesters are so angry. When indigenous protesters put up barricades painted with violent and obscene slogans, media remind us of the pain caused by residential schools. When anti-vaccination protesters come to a Liberal event, the media dismissively calls them “Trump-like.” The mainstream media double standard is typical and galling.
So far, while the protests have been heated and loud, they haven’t devolved into violence. As people worried about vaccination mandates feel increasingly fearful, victimized, and marginalized, however, some may feel driven to take more extreme actions. I am not saying that these protesters need to be appeased, but I am saying that we need to take them seriously and try to defuse the situation.
The intolerance and even vitriol being directed at people who have chosen not to be vaccinated have contributed to the divided and caustic political environment that we are seeing in this election. We will never reach 100 percent vaccination rates. Do we really expect to keep up to 10 percent or more of our population permanently unemployed and restricted in movement? Do we think that those millions of people will simply sit back and accept becoming societal pariahs?
The protests and heckling at political events are symptoms of a large and growing problem. How can we respectfully accommodate the sizable segment of our population who will refuse to accept vaccination under any circumstance? Dismissing them or threatening them with unemployment or even the refusal of medical treatment won’t help. That approach could cause a person to go from simply angry and frightened to outright dangerous.
The mainstream media and politicians don’t need to agree with the protesters but they had best take them seriously. This could go from an annoyance to a crisis in short order.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.